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On The Road With Johnny B ..Remembering Jan, Car Guy Supreme, Uber Optimist


One of the best things about being an Old Car Guy and indeed Old you have a treasure trove of wonderful memories of all the amazing people you meet along Life's Highway. Some people touch you and leave you with an imprint in your heart and soul. Our friend Jan Van Der Baan was one of those people.

Jan was a Car Guy Supreme and what I would call a "Serial Optimist" Seldom was Heard a Discouraging Word from Jan and he was everybody's Biggest Fan. Quick witted, warm, brilliant, always late, eager to hear or tell a story, encouraging and generous till it hurt are only a few words to describe our Bro from another Mo..Jan.

I met Jan in 1988 when I was running the Parts Department of the now Ka-Put United Cars Of Germany. In need of assorted parts for the very quirky collection of Audi 5000's he had at the time we became friends from the start. Both of us shared a love for oddball cars, oddball people and adventures that led to nowhere.

Jan was a Networker long before it became a word. Adept in meeting people and introducing those people to other people was a specialty of Jan. I have lost count how many lifetime friendship I now have thru Jan and his ability to make everybody feel special.

It was because of Jan I got into Classic Car Appraisals and am now a somewhat Iconic Figure at the Carlisle Fairgrounds. The biggest Favor Jan ever did for me was to push me into writing. He spotted something in me nobody else did. Every time a I blabber away on some subject I think of Jan. Like always in my case he was My Biggest Fan.

I lost count thru the decades how many automotive disasters we were involved in. All of them ending up to be grand stories that made us laugh and groan all at the same time. There wasn't a old Italian Car in need that Jan would't try to save.

I never seen Jan cook a meal, punch a time clock or could ever figure out how he made a living. It didn't matter because it was all part of his charm. Even though he did bring his laundry 250 miles to do at my house during a Carlisle Car Show. something we all teased him about for years... again all part of his charm.

When things imploded in my life 13 years ago Jan never judged me. Would never gossip and would only answer the mudslinger's with "He will be fine" I never forgot that.

A few weeks before his passing fueled on Martini's and Corvettes I called Jan from a Carlisle Bar Stool to thank him for all he had done for all of us. Funny how God works sometimes to plant a thought in your Brain Box. He of course shrugged off the compliments and discussed future plans and his endless meetings. As always a Serial Optimist.

Thru the years this Rag Tag Band of Car Nuts has lost more than its share of amazing people. There is no way of sizing up the loss to the Old Car World the passing of Jan. I'm sure we will all tell Grand Tales of Jan till the day we all head to the Big Garage in the Sky.

When that happens and I do see Jan again I'm sure he will be behind the wheel on an old Gullwing or Ferrari with a smile, a funny story and knowing him a big bag of laundry. All part of his charm. We will miss you my friend

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